Home Breaking News SBI gets its first woman chair in 206 years

SBI gets its first woman chair in 206 years

SBI gets its first woman chair in 206 years

arundhatiMUMBAI: One of the last bastions of male dominance crumbled on Monday when the government named Arundhati Bhattacharya as the first woman chair of the 206-year-old State Bank of India, which together with its subsidiaries, accounts for 22% of the country’s bank deposits and 23% of total lending.

That’s not the only record: Bhattacharya is also the first woman to ever lead a Fortune 500 company in India, and the only woman banker on that list of giants anywhere in the world.

Bhattacharya (57), who was earlier managing director and chief finance officer of SBI, takes charge at a time the bank faces pressure of rising bad loans as borrowers find it difficult to meet their repayment obligations in a slowing economy. She also has to restore the confidence of investors who have dragged down SBI’s share price in recent weeks because of this deterioration in asset quality.

Although Bhattacharya was the only executive in SBI’s senior management with a minimum residual service of two years, the government had decided to waive this requirement and consider all the four managing directors of the bank. They included Hemant Contractor, A Krishna Kumar and S Vishvanathan. Insiders said that Bhattacharya held her own during the interviews.

Bhattacharya, who joined as a probationary officer in 1977, has held key positions in SBI in her 36-year career. She was chief executive of the bank’s merchant banking arm, SBI Capital Markets; before that, as chief general manager in charge of new projects, she was actively involved in the launch of several new businesses such as SBI General Insurance, SBI Custodial Services and the SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund. During her stint at the bank’s New York office, she oversaw external audit and correspondent relations.

Bhattacharya’s appointment, for three years, may not bring any major surprises, at least to begin with, as she has worked closely with the outgoing chairman, Pratip Chaudhuri. In a recent interview, Bhattacharya had spoken of the need to get out of what she described as a QSQT—quarter se quarter tak—culture and to take a longer term view of four to six quarters. Listing her priorities as MD she had highlighted capital efficiency, improvement in productivity, investor relations and overall liquidity management.

Although there are many instances of women occupying the corner offices in Indian banks, SBI has a special place in India’s financial sector as the bank. Besides its sheer size and network of over 15,000 branches, SBI plays a strategic role as banker to the government in its defence and crude oil deals.



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